Tonight: Bird Watching 101 at Soergel Orchards

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Here's something you might want to tweet about. Harlan Hyde Jr. is coming to Wexford tonight, sowing seeds for the nation's No. 2 hobby.

It's "Bird Watching 101," a seminar at Soergel Orchards.

Mr. Hyde, 38, comes to us from Connecticut, where he is sales manager for Aspen Song Wild Bird Food.

"I've been selling bird seed in one form or another for 18 years," he said. "The last six years I've been selling it at the wholesale level."

This goes much deeper than tossing some stale bread crusts out into the snow. Mr. Hyde's company puts together special mixes that attract certain kinds of birds.

"We have good quality seeds and five mixes designed to attract a wide variety of songbirds," he said. "Others are designed to attract a specific subset. There's a cardinal mix, for example, that will attract those and grosbeaks.

"Generally, people will have more than one feeder in their yard. One will be a general purpose mix. The other will be for woodpeckers, cardinals or whatever."

Soergel's Garden Center hosts a number of educational get-togethers through the year, usually focused on plants and landscaping.

Jeremy Gruszka, 25, of Wexford, has worked there for almost 10 years. He said the bird-watching classes are usually in the fall.

"A lot of people feed birds throughout the winter months," he said. "So this gives them some tips. It tends to be a different group of people from those who attend our gardening classes."

"People enjoy it and like to learn more about it," Mr. Hyde said. "We get parents and grandparents who bring children, and they connect. This is a way to bring people into the hobby.

"It's an educational seminar. Obviously there's some sales component to it. But it's primarily an educational program where I talk about how to attract birds to feeders. There are 25 songbirds. And we talk about how they can identify them."

There are advantages to having birds in your garden. They help control pests.

"But, more importantly, most people involved in birding do it for their viewing pleasure," Mr. Hyde said. "When the economy turns down, you can't go to Paris, but you can buy a bag of birdseed and a feeder and brew a cup of coffee and sit out on your porch for a stay-cation.

"Winter is the time when the hobby really picks up. Especially when you have some weather. People tend to go to the store and buy birdseed. I don't think there's anything more beautiful than a white, snow-covered tree with a blue jay or a cardinal or a chickadee sitting on it."

Bring your bird questions and $5 to Soergel Orchards, 2573 Brandt School Road, in Franklin Park. The session starts at 7 p.m., and Mr. Gruszka said your $5 admission will be credited toward any purchase after the class.

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Dan Majors: dmajors@post-gazette.com. This story originally appeared in The Pittsburgh Press. To log in or subscribe, go to: http://press.post-gazette.com/


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